Today I Saw God
It is so refreshing to see your newly decorated caps and gowns, photos on the quad and smiling announcements on social media. Whether from high school, college or graduate school, graduation often symbolizes new beginnings and bright futures. However, I also remember a fair share of anxiety around these milestone moments. As we prepare to honor our graduating seniors at Floris United Methodist Church Sunday, June 4, I want to take a minute to address some of the stress and anxiety that so many experience.
Our culture tends to always focus on tomorrow. "What's next?" "Where are you going?" "What are you doing with your life?" This is true of almost any phase, but I can think of no worse time than high school and college for these piercing questions. "Have you chosen your major yet?" "Which college will you go to?" "Are you sure you want to go to a liberal arts school?" "What is your career track?" "Do you have an internship lined up?"
I wish I could tell you that this anxiety-producing conversational style would end after college, but it doesn't. Instead, the questions simply shift a little. "When are you going to settle down?" "Why are you still renting?" "Why aren't you married?" "You know, you are getting a little old. Aren't you worried you won't be able to have children?" People get in such a frenzy over other people's tomorrows that they barely let you enjoy today.
When I was in high school, I hadn't really figured out my future, and this seriously stressed me out. As it turns out, I never really mastered predicting the future, which tells me fortune telling is probably not in my life plan. This is still disappointing. Even in college I had no idea that my chosen career path in education would later come to a screeching halt so I could pursue worship leadership. Slightly older Megan still had no idea what she was doing, and I'm pretty sure I can say the same about my present self.
I see this as a common worry amongst my younger musicians as they fumble about, trying on different titles to see how they feel. Psychologist? Doctor? Musician? Dog walker? CIA operative? However, I'd encourage you to relax a little. It's okay. You're going to be okay. Choosing the wrong school or major freshman year will not ruin your life. It's important to do work, make plans and be responsible, but there is no eleventh commandment that states, "Thou shalt get your life together by eighteen and map out a plan for your entire future by twenty-two." Honestly I don't even think it's possible to have your entire life planned even by forty-two or fifty-two. My experience has taught me that God's will and call on my life might morph and change over time. What is appropriate for me now might not be where God leads me a year from now.
God does not call us to have the perfect plan. Rather, God calls us to abide in him. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love each other. Those are the most important commandments. The right career path will reveal itself to you, but often it is easier to discern God's calling in your life when you are truly in relationship with God. When you start to feel overwhelmed with applications, deadlines and an uncertain future, take a minute and return to God's word. Abide in him and carve out time for prayer and meditation. You never know what door God might open or what answer might be provided in the quiet stillness of prayer or while diving into a Bible study.
It's also important during this stressful time that you remember God's call to love others. Kindness and generosity are forgotten relics when we become hyper-focused on accomplishing our next task or getting from point A to point B. When you're considering blowing off your family gathering because you need one more hour to study, don't. Give yourself a break and actually spend time with your loved ones.
For those of you in high school, you might soon be leaving your childhood home forever. You will revisit, but it will never feel the same as it does right now. Some day you'll miss waking up to breakfast on the weekends or late night chats with your sister. That annoying brother will not have as many opportunities to poke fun at you again, and you'll even miss the "Dad jokes." Hug your mom a few extra times and help your sibling with their homework. This time is precious.
For those of you leaving college, there will never be another time like this in your entire life. Embrace your friends, laugh all night and soak in the experiences. Spend some time lounging on the quad and barbecuing with neighbors on their tiny, beat-up grill with cheap frozen hamburger patties you bought by scamming off your parents' Costco membership. If you are too focused on what's next, you'll miss out on the beauty of this special moment.
So go forth, my darling little graduates. Like so many others in your life, I'm overwhelmingly excited for what the future holds for you. However, I'm just as excited for the experiences you are capturing right now. Hold on to them, enjoy them and forget about tomorrow for a minute so you can truly appreciate today.
An old(er) person who gets called "ma'am" occasionally
While shopping this Christmas at a local craft store, I noticed a huge stand of coloring booksadult coloring books. It looked like it might be fun so I bought one. Little did I know I had stumbled onto the latest trend. Apparently coloring is good for your brain. It actually is an activity that relaxes the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, and allows your mind to rest. Who knew?
And yet, as I sat in the chair selecting colors and proceeding to color a page in my new book, I found myself feeling guilty. What's that about? Well, I think it's because there is something deeply ingrained in me that tells me I must be productive and coloring is not considered "productive." I quickly heard myself saying, "I don't have time to do this. I have a huge to-do list! This is a total waste of time, time that should be spent on that huge list!"
The truth is, I will always have a "to-do list," and it will always be "huge." Taking time away from that list is something my increasingly demanding world has made difficult. I rarely set aside time to do "nothing" (even if I'm watching TV, there's usually a laptop or iPad nearby). However, if I don't take that time, the fast pace and the stress will eventually wear me down, and I will be of no use to anyone. In fact, what should always be on my to-do list is a permanent item: "Take time for me."
Coloring, like the time I take each morning with God, helps me to live in the moment. As I continued to color, I began to feel good about my new creative outlet. Then I was reminded of something I had read just that morning. It described how we might spend time with God. The author suggests that we not actively imagine God, listen to God or talk to God but crawl up into God's lap of love, rest our head against God's breast and take comfort in that slow, steady heartbeat of grace that says, "This is where you belong." I love the image of curling up in God's lap and being content to just be there.
Slowing down. Taking time for me. Living in the moment. These are my resolutions for 2016. What about you? What will your 2016 look like?
Time and I used to be friends. I had plenty. Life was good. Then I grew up and life started making demands. That's when timeandI became enemies. Jesus says, "pray for your enemies."
It's really tough to pray for something as intangible as time, so I personified it. I imagined it as a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland, rabbit with a pocket watch, type person. Then it didn't look so much like an enemy. I looked more like the enemy. What was opposing me was not time itself, but how I was spending it. And that's the thing,resourcesthat are scarce demand our attention and careful management. At church we call thisstewardship.
Oddly enough, a few places where I might have spent my time have not materialized this fall. After I got over lamenting my "regular" activities I realized I was left with some extra time to spend. But, recognizing it's preciousness, I admit I have become a bit stingy. At church we call this discernment.
Still, with my handfulof time, I investigated the PALS information table after services yesterday. That's the Floris partnership that matches up an adult mentor with a child at Hutchison Elementary for a once a week lunch date. Tracy Saunders made it sound wonderful in her blog post, Time Well Spent. I tried to be unobtrusive as I scanned the handouts on the table, but JakeMcGlothin, our director of Serve ministries, caught me. I mentioned that I had some extra time this fall.Now don't tell Jake that you have extra time. Because he is very happy to say,"Oh, you can give more than an hour? We can sign you up for a whole morning if you'd like." I love Jake; he has an incredible heart for what he does and thepeoplehe serves.
But I recognize that I have a time temptation problem. When I hear of a need or get word of something I can do, I tend to jump at the chance. I'm in recovery, though. I'm taking it to prayer. Praying for my relationship with my (former) enemy, time, and my current enemy, my time expenditure.
Somehow, when I bring stuff to God, even my enemies look different. Oh, I can't say He banished my enemy with a backhand. No, He is more gracious than that. He sends me small ways to address my enemies. Like a watch – that tells the time, complete with alarm,stopwatchand illumination features, but also a chime – which I accidentally activated when I was setting the alarm. It makes a precocious little "ding" on the hour. Not loud. Not intrusive. But audible, when I'm paying attention. I kind of like it. It sounds very much like a still,smallvoice to me.
And that's how God has me addressing my enemy, just by paying attention. He's shown me my complacency – in figuringI had all the time in the world. He's shown me my value – assuring me that it does matter to Him how I spend my time. So much so that He sends me a prompt every hour.
Just a reminder, and I have come to welcome it. A quick check to see if what I amdoingdeserves the time I am spending on it. (Oh, there it is…time to go.)
Imagine, something so simple.